Friday, July 26, 2013

Friess Lake and the MAKER'S Lab!

MAKER’S Lab
Friess Lake is one of the few public schools in the world to initiate a MAKER’S Lab.   What is a MAKER’S Lab?  Let’s start with what it is not- it is not like your old middle school industrial arts class, the one that culminated with a birdhouse.
The MAKER’S Lab is a community of learners who use their creativity to prototype and test their ideas in the process of MAKING things.  Rope bridges out of plastic bags, robots, roller coasters, Lego Robotics, using cardboard and duct tape to build a boat, underwater robotic vehicles, aquaponics, rockets, and more!    
In the process of MAKING these things, the students are testing and developing their knowledge of electronics, math, science, and engineering.  They are also developing their “grit” as they learn to persevere through failure.  The MAKER’S Lab will provide students with opportunities to tinker with ideas, to imagine and iterate as they apply skills to an actual product, and, in case you missed it the first time- to persevere through failure.  Mistakes can be celebrated and used as part of the learning process.
The role of the instructor morphs from that of “Sage of the stage” to “Guide on the side.”  
We believe that a key part of our educational mission must be to provide students with opportunities to enhance their Critical Thinking and Problem Solving through Reasoning and Analysis, Initiative and Entrepreneurialism, and Curiosity and Imagination.  These are part of what author Tony Wagner refers to as “...Survival Skills for the 21st Century.”

Some of the details are still taking shape, but we are extremely excited to offer this unique learning experience to the students of Friess Lake School.  All students in K5-8 will have an opportunity to cycle through the lab.  This is made possible through a grant from Cognizant, a leading provider of information technology, consulting, and business process outsourcing services, headquartered in Teaneck, NJ.  Cognizant’s Making the Future education initiative seeks to inspire young learners to pursue science, technology, engineering and math disciplines by creating fun, hands-on learning opportunities.


Making the Future draws inspiration from the Maker Movement, a broad-based community that celebrates the art of designing and building really cool things, either doing it yourself (DIY) or with others (DIWO). Makers are driven by the challenge of the projects they tackle, while also engaging in design- and project-based learning that can nurture creativity and develop proficiency in the STEM and arts disciplines (STEAM).
We will also be working in partnership with School Factory as we move forward with this ambitious project.  Information on School Factory can be found at schoolfactory.org, but this part of their mission statement concisely sums up our primary goal “...creating communities and spaces that transform education.”  

Monday, July 15, 2013

Fishing, Quitting, and Succeeding

As a kid, I always thought I was a good fisherman.  The process seemed pretty simple, actually.  Tie on a Rapala, go to the spot one cabin down that had emerging weeds, cast to the edge of the weeds and twitch it back.  Fish on!

Only later did I fully appreciate that this was truly a magical spot on a magical lake.

Ann Richards had a great line about a well-known politician who, in the interest of keeping this non-political, will remain nameless: "He was born on third base and thought he hit a triple."  In terms of fishing, that line could certainly apply to me in my youth.

The intervening years have humbled me.  Fishing is hard.  When they aren't biting, the questions are endless:

Am I in the right spot? Should I stay in this general area, but move shallower or deeper- or quit and move to a completely different spot?

Should I quit what I'm doing and change my approach?  If so, to what?  Live bait?  Which kind?  How presented?  Jig?  Troll?  Cast?  Crank baits?  Color?  Depth?  More aggressive or a subtle presentation?

Quit and fish for a different species?  Quit and go home? 

In The Dip, author Seth Godin talks about the importance of knowing when to quit.  Yup- turns out that quitting is actually an important key to success. 

Successful fisherman devote more time to (what turn out to be) the right spots, and less time to (what turn out to be) the wrong spots.  The same maxim applies to successful people. 

Godin: "Stick with the Dips that are likely to pan out, and quit the Cul-de-Sacs to focus your resources.  That's it....The biggest obstacle to success in life, as far as I can tell, is our inability to quit...soon enough."

In fishing, and in life, it is essential to know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em.